VCAT Knocks Back $70 million Eastern Golf Course Relocation

Environmental Organisations Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Healesville Environment Watch Inc (HEWI) took part in a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

After a 10 day hearing in which 13 experts gave evidence, VCAT has overturned Council's decision to grant a planning permit to allow a controversial golf course relocation to be built in close proximity to Melbourne's water supply.

PRESS RELEASE December 21 2010

VCAT Knocks Back $70 million Eastern Golf Course Relocation.


After a 10 day hearing in which 13 experts gave evidence, the Victorian Civil and Adminstrative Tribunal (VCAT) has overturned Council's decision to grant a planning permit to allow a controversial golf course relocation to be built in close proximity to Melbourne's water supply.

The Eastern Golf Club has been planning to move from their current location at Doncaster to a new location at Yering for the past few years.

The $70 million relocation was opposed in VCAT by Friends of the Earth Inc, Healesville Environment Watch Inc and Bill Boerkamp. The relocation had been approved by Yarra Ranges Shire Council and Melbourne Water.

The redevelopment was refused largely because according to VCAT 'design elements in the floodplain were not resolved, particularly an evacuation route during floods'. The tribunal also stated that “A substantial bridge and associated mounding tabled by the Eastern Golf Club late in the hearing to address the evacuation route is uncertain in its form and impact. VCAT also found that water quality issues needed to be dealt with in more detail than in the original approval.

Friends of the Earth Spokesperson Anthony Amis said "It is incredible that Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Melbourne Water, Greg Norman Course Design & numerous consultants would have contemplated access to a site through 5 metres of potential floodwater. Why was it up to community groups to highlight this glaring omission?"


Mr Amis added “Our concerns about widespread pesticide application above the offtake to Melbourne's drinking water were also taken on board by the VCAT in its decision. Strict conditions around pesticide use, including a rigorous assessment of individual pesticides and a monitoring regime, would have been required if VCAT had approved the development.”

Felicity Millner, Solictor from the Environment Defenders Office who acted Friends of the Earth said “This decision is a great outcome for the environment of the Yarra River and shows the value of public particpation in planning decisions. As a result of the objectors pursuing their concerns in VCAT, an inappropriately located development has been refused, and the need to consider water quality impacts in detail at a planning permit stage has been recognised in the decision.”

For further comment contact Anthony Amis on 0425 841 564 or Felicity Millner on 0427 766 855

You can find our submission to VCAT here.

 

news items on the case

Green group fears golf construction to spoil city water (Yarra Ranges Weekly,  23/11/10)

Eastern Golf Club taken to VCAT over $65m plans (Banyule and Nillumbik Weekly 23/11/10)

media release 

Environmental Groups Take Legal Action against $65 Million Golf Course Development, to Safeguard Melbourne's Drinking Water

Environmental Organisations Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Healesville Environment Watch Inc (HEWI) and Melbourne resident Bill Boerkamp will take part in a hearing in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) on Monday November 15, in the hope of quashing development plans for a $65 million golf course development planned by Eastern Golf Club at Yering.

Eastern Golf Club is moving from its current Doncaster location, with land at Doncaster possibly set to earn the club over $100 million. Total development costs of the Doncaster land could top $1 billion.

The environmental organisations are very concerned that the development is located on a sensitive floodplain that floods regularly and is located only one kilometre upstream from the offtake to Sugarloaf Reservoir which pumps drinking water from the Yarra River. The Yarra at this location is also known to support habitat for three threatened native fish species, the australian grayling, the murray cod and the macquarie perch

A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth Anthony Amis said. "With the recent rainfall, a large portion of the the site where the golf course is to be built has been inundated with flood water. Friends of the Earth is deeply concerned that runoff from agrochemicals used on the course could impact on drinking water quality for 1.5 million Melbournians who source their drinking water from Sugarloaf. From our estimations up to 50 tonnes of fertiliser could be used on the course during establishment and ~ 13 tonnes of fertiliser required each year. This is on top of the pesticides that the course plans to use, several of which have been associated with health problems. Surely in the 21st we have gone beyond the need to place such chemical dependent land uses in our water supplies. We also understand that Melbourne Water support this development but only with stringent conditions that the course is now opposing".

Felicity Millner, solicitor from the Environment Defenders Office, who is representing Friends of the Earth in the proceedings, added "We will argue that the precautionary principle requires the golf course not be granted a planning permit because the risks to the health of humans and ecology of the Yarra River are not properly understood".

Spokesperson for HEWI Jacqui Feagan said "HEWI is very concerned at the prospect of a golf course precinct (comprising 3 large golf courses) on this sensitive floodplain area at Yering.  HEWI believes that such a precinct is contrary to the Regional Strategy Plan for the Yarra Valley and will place an unacceptable burden on the iconic Yarra River and its environs. Excessive water extraction from the Yarra River in each of the last three years, 2007-9, left the river with only 30% of the natural run-off “ the lowest on record“ so new impacts will be compounded by such a reduced level of water flow. HEWI is also deeply concerned about the irreversible damage to the floodplain, the loss of prime agricultural land and biodiversity that another golf course would impose on this region."

For Further Information Call Anthony Amis on 0425 841 564

IMAGE on front page:

After recent rains, much of the planned golf course site was underwater. View looking west into planned golf course site.